When your service takes a child-centred approach, this means it:
- plans and designs all aspects of the service to meet the individual needs and abilities of every child
- gives all children the same opportunity to access and participate in all parts of the service
- adjusts and tailors activities towards all children's unique needs
- includes the child, their family and support team in decision making
- makes the 'child's voice' and preferences a priority
- reflects and seeks feedback from all involved.
Examples of a child-centred approach
Below are examples of how you can adopt a child-centred approach at your service, and which quality area each example meets in the National Quality Framework Standards.
You provide various art and craft options for children with different fine motor abilities (such as children who cannot hold a paintbrush).
This meets Quality Area 1 (program design): you have designed your program to support children with complex disabilities to participate on the same basis as their peers.
You make notes on the daily or weekly program plan so staff know exactly what adjustments to make to the program. You help a child to navigate social interactions in a group performance activity.
This meets Quality Area 1 (individualised support): you have provided targeted support and made individualised adjustments so children can participate in program activities.
You meet the child, their family, school and care professionals before enrolment, and then on an ongoing basis, to discuss support needs and strategies.
This meets Quality Areas 5 and 6 (collaborative partnerships): you have worked closely with the child, their family and support team to understand the child's abilities and individual support needs, and plan to meet those needs.
Ideas on how to seek input from a child with a complex disability
Ask the child to suggest ideas and help plan your program
Why: They may have unique viewpoints and offer new ideas. When they see their contributions and preferences reflected in the program, they will feel respected and valued. This will engage and motivate them.
Example: Ask all children to nominate their favourite activities for a market-style day. Ask children with complex disabilities to select activities they are interested in from pictures or a list and plan the activities.
Observe the child's actions
Why: A child with a complex disability may find it challenging to identify or express what they enjoy at your service. By watching their behaviour and interactions and what they gravitate towards and choose to engage with, you will better understand their preferences.
Example: Set up different sensory stations for self-directed play and observe what activities the child chooses to participate in and enjoys. During unstructured playtimes, see what the child gravitates to.
Enable creative participation
Why: Taking part in an activity will look different for every child. Some children like to lead, others may join in for just parts of an activity, and others may prefer to just observe.
Example: Support children to join in an athletics carnival in different ways. Some children may choose to race, others may want to create chants and be part of the cheer squad, and others may want to watch and judge the winners of each race.
Let children help design the space
Why: It will help them feel ownership over the space, as the space is 'theirs' and was designed based on what they like.
Example: Allow children to decorate the walls with their own art or hang handprints with their names on them. Ask them for input on the space's layout. Put up posters of Auslan signs to help children communicate with someone who is hard of hearing.
Invite children to run activities
Why: The child gets to demonstrate their abilities, share their interests, connect with others and develop their leadership skills.
Example: Encourage children to take responsibility for planning, setting up and packing up an activity for everyone. Ask a child to lead their favourite game or dance to their favourite song. If the child requires more support or is not comfortable leading an activity, they could share the responsibility with others.
Encourage children to help each other
Why: Children with complex disability may welcome the opportunity to guide and support others, rather than always being the one receiving support.
Example: Ask a child with a complex disability who has been attending your service regularly to give a new child a tour of the space. Pair up children to write letters and make artwork for a local aged care facility. Sign up your service to cook a meal for a community group experiencing food insecurity and involve the children in this cooking activity.
Involve children in planning their support
Why: It will give them a sense of empowerment and control.
Example: When providing personal or medical care to a child with a complex disability, discuss with them in advance how they would like that support to be provided. Ask questions such as: 'What kinds of support do you want to receive?', 'How would you like that support to be provided?', and 'When do you prefer to try to do something by yourself?' When providing care, ask the child's permission, respect the child's body autonomy, and keep checking in to see if they are comfortable.
Work with the child's family and support team
Why: For children who find it challenging to understand or communicate their preferences, their support team can be a great source of insight into what the child is interested in at home, school or other environments. The support team can help you understand the child's decision-making capacity and when they like to be independent.
Example: Ask the child's family, school and support team for suggestions for your program, based on what the child would enjoy. Ask the family about activities their child has always wanted to do but has not been able to. Agree on ways the child can practise their independence, such as making their own lunch.
Ask the child for feedback
Why: Asking the child for feedback on how they enjoyed an activity or program that day will make them feel heard and valued and alert you to changes that may need to be made.
Example: Play a red light/green light reflection game where children share their favourite and least favourite part of the day. They could use coloured stickers or indicate on your routine chart what they did and didn't enjoy that day. Make feedback processes fun and use techniques that match the child's communication abilities and preferences.
Case study: Meiling's experience at OSHC
Meiling is 8 years old, has cerebral palsy and uses a powered wheelchair. She does not have an intellectual disability and is very conscious of experiencing the same opportunities as all the other 8-year-olds at OSHC.
She is excited to spend more time with other kids her age and play new games at OSHC, as these are things she doesn't get to do as often as she would like.
Meiling asked if the OSHC could hold an athletics carnival, as this is something she's always wanted to do. The OSHC educators made sure to set up the athletics activities on the evenest ground outside and clear any objects, large rocks or branches to make sure it would be stable and safe for Meiling and all the other children.
Meiling was able to race the other children in her wheelchair and had a lot of fun. Her team even came second in the relay race!
The other children also loved the athletics carnival and thanked Meiling for her great idea. Meiling was very happy the OSHC used her suggestion and that everyone had as much fun as she did.